Rich Russians, Chinese and Iranians buy Caribbean passports allowing them access to the EU and US

Oct 20, 2023 | 0 comments

By Polly Thompson

Tens of thousands of passports have been obtained by Russians, Iranians, Chinese and others from Caribbean nations, granting them visa-free travel to European countries, according to a report by the European Commission.

Wealthy foreigners can purchase passports from Caribbean nations for as little as $100,000. In some cases, the buyers are not required to visit the countries issuing the passport.

The Commission said five Caribbean nations – Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, and Dominica – have granted citizenship to at least 88,000 individuals for as little as $100,000 each.

In some cases, the number of passports issued is higher than the existing population. St Kitts and Nevis, which has a population of 48,000, has issued 36,700 passports to foreign individuals, per the investigation.

Meanwhile, an investigation by news organizations including The Guardian and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) revealed that Dominica had sold “golden passports” to individuals including a former Afghan spy and a colonel under former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

The scale of the “golden passport” trade has sparked security concerns from the European Commission, which is proposing a crackdown on visa-free travel for people using them.

The proposal said obtaining citizenship through investment schemes could lead to the “infiltration of organised crime, money laundering, tax evasion, and corruption.”

The legislation would end visa exemptions for countries that operate investor citizenship schemes for buyers who lack a “genuine link” to the nation.

Some 150,000 people have used the visa-free travel arrangements to claim asylum once in a European country, according to the EU home affairs commissioner, Ylva Johansson.

“This is of course not how the visa-free travelling should be used,” he said, per The Guardian. Buying a passport lets wealthy individuals circumvent immigration regulations.

A system that allows them to “skirt the rules” is “highly problematic,” Gary Kalman, the executive director of Transparency International US, previously told Insider.

Such passports became more popular after citizens of the Caribbean countries were granted visa-free travel in 2015, The Guardian reported. However, buyers are not required to have any connection to the states, nor even visit the countries.

Last year, an Insider investigation revealed a similar loophole that gave rich Russians a backdoor to the US by investing as little as $150,000 in Grenada.

A visa firm was advising Russians in business opportunities that would grant them a Grenadian passport. Once citizenship was granted they could then access a US E-2 visa.
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Credit: Business Insider

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